Why Content Marketing and Storytelling are like a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Last week, CMI hosted its Content Marketing World, where the concept of creating compelling concept was addressed in great detail. If you did not get a chance to attend, definitely check out the Content Marketing Institute Google+ page for some great information.  There were many takeaways, but the biggest for me was this: You need both the content and the story to convey

what your products and services solve for the customer.  It would seem that content marketing and storytelling are like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich: one without the other just isn’t a sandwich.

So what’s the problem?

What I see is company creating content such as datasheets, webinars, and case studies that address more of their needs to promote their interest than the customer. The issue is not the datasheet itself, but that the datasheet doesn’t paint the picture for the prospect of what she can expect from your product or service.

In fact, Forrester reported that 70 percent of the content B2B buyers read and study before making a purchase decision is actually found by themselves, as opposed to being given to them by marketing or sales. You need to tell a consistent story as to why prospective customers should buy from you.

How to make your content marketing and storytelling sandwich

Last month, I wrote an article for Brand Quarterly called, “Storytelling is the New Black.” I focused on how marketers can create content to address consumers’ needs through a structure storytelling outline.

There seems to be a constant commingling of ideas between content marketing and storytelling. I think Don E. Shultz said it best, “Content Marketing is the future of marketing. You must tell a compelling stories to engage consumers.

So how do you make your content compelling?

The first way to bring storytelling into your business is to make your customer the hero. Not to be trite, I often see many websites with more sales sheets than client success stories or case studies. Storytelling allows you to put your customer in the limelight. Share their successes and challenges. I used video to share industry insight by the folks (clients, employees, pundits) in my company who have been in the market and shared their experiences.

Social Media is another opportunity to connect with your market. If your followers are not re-sharing your content, then you are missing a huge opportunity to engage and connect. When you think about content you share on social media think in terms of your ideal client. What do they want to share? What type of information they need? What do they want to hear?

Most folks want to share photos, stories, links to articles that will help or teach them something new. Be the source of information people want to engage with. Charity: Water does an amazing job of telling the story of how bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations is connected to their donation. I love the page about sponsoring a water project that in great detail shares what a contributor’s donation actually is used for. Fantastic use of images, details to tell their story and how it contributes to the greater good.

What are the other ingredients for the content sandwich?

  1. Get Organized. Create a company-wide editorial calendar that shows what you will produce, who is producing, what it is about, when to expect it. This is key to actually creating and curating the content rather than talking about it. Especially for curating, what themes or topics do you plan to share?
  2.  Assign responsibility. Not everyone has the same roles in curating or creating content. I think of this in terms of a RACI chart. Assign roles in terms of responsibility: Responsibility, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.
  3.  Pull on the Same Rope. Everyone needs to be on the same page. Make sure you create a company-wide strategy. Otherwise everyone creates “content” and spams not only your clients, but also your prospective clients. Disorganization is a content killer
  4. Before You Create, You Participate. Before you start creating, really understand how your audience interacts and shares content in specific channels.
  5.  Think about your Buying Cycle. Develop content for each stage of the buying cycle: awareness, consideration, intent, purchase, repurchase (loyalty).
  6. Solve for the Customer (S.F. T. C.). You should create content that satisfies the clients’ needs not your ego.
  7. Get Creative. Think beyond the traditional white papers or infographics. How does your audience like to consume content? Twitter, Blog, Facebook? Test different types and see what works best.
  8. Measure your Impact. Don’t go through the process of creating content and not measure its impact. Where was it shared? How often? Did folks go back to your website?
  9. Don’t forget to Share. Sharing is caring. Most companies create content and never consider how to promote it. Plan for promotion early in the process.
  10.  Have Something to Say. In order to create authenticate, relevant content you should be sharing something different that folks want to read. In the words of a former executive I worked with, “you need actual thoughts to successful create thought leadership.”

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